Thursday, June 9, 2011

164. Respect everyone's graduate

Very recently, I had the privilege of attending my sister's college graduation at the University of Akron. Like many adult students, she has worked very hard--balancing classes, work and family. The graduation ceremony is a chance to be recognized for that hard work by family and friends. It's a chance to close a chapter in one's life and look forward to the future. Finally, it's a chance to say goodbye to professors and classmates.

Individuals celebrate the ceremony in different ways, as some react with relief, others jubilation. Most are at least a little emotional, some very. Many people invite only close family members, others share the occasion with as many people for which graduation tickets can be obtained. Some graduates enjoy the moment formally, in suits or beautiful dresses, others in shorts and flip-flops. Whatever, it is their graduation.

The ceremony itself is often traditional--with moments of reflection, inspiration and aspiration. It can be rich with majesty, though some are kept simple. Admittedly, the ceremony can run long--very long, as each graduate gets his or her individual moment to be announced to the crowd and walk across the stage. And, to ensure that each graduate enjoys that moment--when his or her name is proudly projected onto the gathering-graduation officials kindly request that applause and yelling be held until the end.

Unfortunately, many people in the crowd simply cannot control themselves. Whether this action is now marked in tradition or as a measure of defiance, it's not long after the names start to be read that people start yelling . . . "Way to go Sally!" Then, of course, the next family can't let anyone think that they love their graduate any less and yell something like, "Way to go Mary, we love you!" And away we go.

Some graduation officials just accept it as part of the process and simply wait for the hooting and hollering for individuals to end before reading the next name, others are annoyed that people can't follow simple directions and request that the crowd be more respectful. It doesn't work, the yelling and screaming quickly resumes.

In keeping up with technology, the University of Akron asked that people put away their cell phones. They asked that they not only turn off the ringer, but also that they refrain from texting, playing games, etc. Of course, asking people to sit patiently without using their phones for two hours borders on absurdity. It is far too much to ask people to sit back and just enjoy the moment on behalf of their graduate without an addition form of entertainment. The request was respected for about half an hour (about our attention span these days) before the audience was littered and lit with people on their cell phones.

However, what was probably most annoying were the people who could not sit still for the ceremony and those that left early--after their family member had been called. The audience was packed with long rows of people filling E.J. Thomas Hall and each exit imposed on every other person in the row. While obviously there are some legitimate reasons for exit, some acted as if they were at a ball game and seemed to leave every few minutes on a beer run.

Each graduate enjoys about twenty seconds to be individually recognized on stage. And my niece, armed with her camera and ready to catch that moment forever on film, waited anxiously for her mom's name to be called. However, she recognized that with our name near the end of the alphabet, more and more people were exiting. Normally calm and laid back, she leaned over and whispered to me that if someone is exiting in front of her when her mom's name is called she was going to be very upset.

And that is the whole point, it is about respect--about allowing others to enjoy the moment as you wish to enjoy it. It's also about being kind and considerate, about being willing to endure a bit a sacrifice as to not ruin the occasion for others. It never ceases to amaze me (obviously, as I continue to write about it) that some people do not seem to consider how their actions affect others.

I'll always remember my sister's moment on stage, and how hard she worked to earn that right. Unfortunately, I'll also remember the cell phones, the mom interrupting many others as she allowed her child to literally crawl down the long aisle, and the people who almost ruined the occasion for my niece, our family and the families of many others.

Finally, I'll remember the woman who yelled at the top of her lungs and from the top row, "I love you Danesiha," at least four random times throughout the ceremony. In my opinion, it is a shame that she and others who acted as she did needed to engage in such a public interruption to "prove" her love for their graduate. And, it is more of a shame that no respect is offered to others wanting to share in that same love for their graduate.

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